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Soil compaction solution

Soil compaction is a problem farmers have been battling for decades. University studies have shown that soil compaction is responsible for 10% to 20% crop loss.

Weight applied to soil robs it of its ability to hold water and air, which is necessary for plant growth. Plant roots depend on the soil’s ability to maintain a balance of water, air, and nutrients, which is only possible in noncompacted soil. 

“There are many reasons for minor soil compaction. The major cause is heavy equipment,” says Florence, Alabama, entrepreneur Tommy Thompson. “I’ve seen farmers driving large tractors back and forth across fields. I understand what this is doing to the soil. If a farmer runs a 40,000-pound tractor across the field, soil is compacted 3 to 5 feet deep, depending on soil type and amount of moisture in the soil.”

With the introduction of his Traction Tillage System, Thompson hopes to alleviate this age-old problem. “My system is different, because it plows without being pulled by a tractor,” he explains. 

How it works

Guided by GPS and monitored by cameras mounted on the frame at different locations, the system has two gangs of 

implements pulled by a cable moving them in opposite directions, supported and guided by two parallel horizontal booms. These implements create their own traction by working against themselves; therefore, they don’t require the weight of a tractor for traction. 

Mounted beside each wheel is a hydraulically operated coulter-type wheel that anchors the system and keeps it from shifting when one set of implements makes contact with soft or hard soil.

“This eliminates the need to add weight to the machine to create traction,” Thompson notes. 

“In fact,” he continues, “the soil being tilled would never need to be driven over except for one set of tracks, which are approximately 100 feet apart.”

The system has four large-diameter wheels that are powered and can rotate 90°. This allows the system to move latitudinally and longitudinally throughout the field. It can also rotate in either direction with either end becoming the pivot point.

“Once the machine is stationary, the cable pulls the implements as much as 600 feet in one pass when the sections are connected like a pivot water system,” Thompson says. “After the pass is complete, the cable pulls the implements up a ramp, lifting them out of the ground and rotating them 180°.”

The system then moves the width just tilled and stops. The cable is activated, and the implements move back down the ramp and enter the soil, moving toward the opposite end of the boom.

Thompson’s patent-pending invention can be configured to accommodate different field sizes. Because the system comes apart and booms can be pulled as a trailer on the supporting wheels, it is easily transported. 

“This device is more energy-efficient than traditional methods, because the only energy it uses is going directly to the tilling action rather than a 40,000-pound tractor,” says Thompson.  


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